2016: More Baseless Speculation About Our Next Presidential Race (That Will Likely Be Proven Wrong in Less Than A Month)
Journalists (and I use that term loosely) seem to have made Potential Presidential Pontificating into their favorite pastime. Whether in print, on the air, or over the internet, you will find countless assessments of possible candidates and straight-faced predictions about what could happen on November 8, 2016. This speculation seems to begin earlier and earlier each election cycle. In all likelihood, as soon as the concession call is made in 2016, the pundits will start their guess about 2020.
I am not sure which came first: the media predilection to start talking about the next election cycle way too early – or the perpetual campaign. I don’t know if one led to the other or if they both cropped up at the same time. Either way, we now have a media almost exclusively focused on the next election cycle while potential candidates are nearly forced to begin campaigning years in advance. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama began their 2008 Presidential bids in 2004 – and Romney only stopped campaigning after his loss in 2012 (Barack Obama, meanwhile, is still on the campaign trail to this day).
We haven’t yet closed out 2013, and roughly 90% of the stories you see and hear from the media have some relation to the 2016 election. So… to add to the noise, confusion, and nonsense – I thought I would provide my own baseless speculation as well.
RightWay’s 2016 Presidential Predictions
If there is one thing that has characterized Presidential Elections in the past 30 years, it is this: “There’s no such thing as a sure bet” (just ask Hillary regarding 2008). With the instantaneous (and nearly free) flow of information, situations and political landscapes seem to change without warning. I don’t envy folks who have Presidential ambitions (and an actual shot at the running). They work towards creating goodwill on a certain policy issue that the majority of Americans ostensibly favor… and then, overnight, public opinion can shift. (Granted, that “public opinion” itself can sometimes and has recently been “manufactured opinion”…. but that’s a whole other can of worms).
The forces of chaos are but a natural feature of our fallen world, but they conspire to make life unpredictable. Again (and I can’t stress this enough) when it comes to Presidential politics, “There’s no such thing as a sure bet”
I wish to emphasize this because I think much of the accepted thinking about 2016 is based on assumptions that are dangerous to hold on to too closely.
These assumptions seem to make sense, given the last two election cycles. However, they fail to take into account the elephant in the room: the mess caused by President Obama’s disastrous foreign policy. I have a strong suspicion that world events are going to be the “spoiler” in 2016.
The U.S. Government’s shortsighted support for the ‘Arab Spring’ (both tacit and tangible) has made a bad Middle East situation much, much, much worse
Egypt is rapidly falling apart
We appear to have been playing with both sides in the Syrian civil war – and no good has come of that
We allowed the Taliban to rise again in Afghanistan
Iraq appears to be becoming a wasted opportunity to create some stability in the Middle East
The President’s assurances regarding the ‘decimation’ of Al-Qaeda were greatly exaggerated
And the list goes on (and that’s just the Middle East!) I have decided not to touch on the mess with Russia, our confused China policies, our abandonment of South America to crazies like the (now deceased) Hugo Chavez and Argentina’s Evita-on-Steroids Cristina Kirchner, our failure to lead on anything affecting the global community, etc etc etc.
Did we have a perfect Foreign Policy going into Obama’s presidency? Certainly not. Some parts were noticeably dicey. But, remarkably, President Obama’s administration has made things for the U.S. far worse now and for the foreseeable future than they were when he and his cronies took the reins of power.
What does all of this mean?
Well, the conventional wisdom is that we are a war-weary people (needless to say, we were apparently a war-weary people in 2004, 2008 and 2012 as well) who are ready to become less and less involved in world affairs.
In such a scenario, Paulism would seem to be ascendant. What I mean by Paulism is, specifically, Ron Paul’s brand of (what he and his followers prefer to label as) “non-interventionism”. The idea, if I understand it correctly is simply that the U.S. should “stop meddling” in foreign affairs. Along with this policy prescription is the inherent belief that U.S. involvement in the matters of other countries has led directly to many negative results for our own country.
For example, in the 2008 primary debates, Ron Paul (in)famously made clear that he believed the attacks on September 11, 2001 were a direct result of our messing with and meddling in the Middle East. His proof? Because that’s what Al-Qaeda said was the reason.
Now then, in 2008, he was figuratively laughed off the stage after those kinds of remarks and saw his campaign go nowhere even faster than before his foreign policy beliefs were given widespread attention. Things have been shifting since then, as even within Republican circles, Bush’s foreign policy is derided and stigmatized.
Enter to the stage Rand “the Palatable” Paul.
He gave a foreign policy speech (I don’t remember if it was before or after his very laudable “Drone Filibuster… I think after…) in which he attempted to distance himself from his father’s more extreme foreign policy views. He tried to paint a word picture of his views being somewhere in between (Ron)Paulism and the neo-conservative approach. The words and the sentiment were very pretty… but , substance-wise, there is little separation between Rand’s and Ron’s foreign policy outlook/philosophy.
It just so happens that, as a whole, the GOP has soured on the Bush Doctrine (pre-emption) and the Hyper-Interventionalism that marked the Bush years (and, to be honest, I am 100% fine with this souring – so long as it leads to common sense reflection and reasonable redirection). In fact, it seems as though the GOP might be ready to topple the hawk influence entirely and embrace more fully some kind of version of Paulism.
The problem I see coming is that it shouldn’t be that difficult for opponents of a RonPaulist foreign doctrine to connect the dots and point out that Obama’s schizophrenic foreign policy has already tried both approaches. He adopted and strengthened Bush-era Drone and Surveillance programs to continue to prosecute the war against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. But at the same time, his larger foreign policy has been Paulism put into practice.
President Obama’s actions have signaled to our allies that the United States is backing down from a lot of foreign involvement. This is precisely the goal of Paulism. Pointing out this connection will be sure to damage Rand’s chances, provided a certain set of probable and even likely scenarios:
1) The rotten fruits of Obama’s policy are more fully laid bare
a. Perhaps Egypt dissolves into civil war
b. Perhaps Russia tips its hand and more Americans wake up to the fact that The Motherland is actively at odds with our interests
c. Any number of unfortunate things happen whose cause can be attributed (even if only slightly) to America’s refusal to lead under Obama’s reign.
2) The connection between Obamist and Paulist foreign affairs approaches is made by the right person/peoples
a. It would have to be by someone who is not now or ever has been associated with the Neo-Conservative or Hawk factions of the GOP
b. They would have to offer up a legitimate 3rd Way that truly is different from both Paulism and Neo-Conservatism.
c. Someone Ross Douthat might describe as an Eisenhower-style Realist Here
That something bad will happen on the World’s stage over the next few years is an unfortunate almost certainty.
That an Eisenhower-like Foreign Policy Realist will emerge from the GOP is less likely, but still possible. It could have been Marco Rubio… but he has been all over the place trying to do damage control after being used by Schumer (and Obama by proxy) to shill for a Democratic Party-friendly immigration proposal. Chris Christie is more likely (as Douthat suggests) to go the full on Hawk/Neo-Con route. Jeb Bush would likely be far more like his father was regarding foreign policy and could definitely take up the mantle of realist. But he has two things working against him – 1) His brother’s legacy and 2) Jeb doesn’t seem like he really and truly wants to run. Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal are both basically foreign policy blank slates, so they could go either way… but neither has much authority to speak compellingly on the matter. That kind of leaves Ted Cruz… who, in my estimation is the most likely to be able to fill the role of Foreign Policy Realist.
Cruz has been on the forefront of the civil liberty issues – Standing with Rand, if you will. However, here and there he has made subtle hints that he’s not quite a Paulist when it comes to foreign policy. He could split the difference between Neo-Conservatism and Paulism. Whether he will do so or not still remains to be seen.
No one is really talking about foreign policy in regards to 2016. I think that’s a mistake for the reasons I have already cited. For those same reasons, I think that Rand Paul will neither get the GOP nomination, nor (obviously) the Presidency.
For the Democrats, they are fast in the process of the coronation of Hillary (again).
She is much more of an Interventionist than Obama. But, she, like her husband before her, is a bungler. She may be ready to take that 3 AM phone call… but she would be prone to mess things up soon after the call was taken. The more we are able to learn about Benghazi, the more tarnished she will become. In addition, her role as Secretary of State under Obama will make her culpable for some of the other many foreign policy failures which are about to explode in our faces.
That’s my prediction in full: Foreign Policy will destroy both Rand and Hillary for 2016.
What do you think?